The most recent data on unemployment paint a stark picture for employers, government and those who sadly, will soon be looking for work. After years of record low unemployment, we may see the number of people out of work at levels not seen since the 1930s.

Our industry is at the forefront of meeting the needs of those hit hardest, helping them to develop the skills they need and find the openings in which they will succeed and thrive. We drove unemployment down following the financial crisis in 2008-09 and we’ll be at the frontline once again.

To flatten the sombrero – to borrow a phrase – this time around, we need to ensure our skills and expertise are updated and sufficient to turn back the tide of worklessness unleashed by this new wave of unemployment. That means practising what we preach and investing in our own staff training to ensure as employability professionals, we are properly prepared and have the correct qualifications.

We have spent the years of low unemployment readying our industry and we have worked together to create new qualifications for those delivering employment support. The Level 4 Employability Practitioner Apprenticeship is perfect for anyone working in the public, private and voluntary sectors helping people who are out of work.

Developed and designed by the Employability Trailblazer Employer Group (ETEG), chaired by Seetec and including organisations both working in and affiliated with the employability sector, the standard took two years to develop. It is designed for people in roles such as employment advisors, job coaches, consultants, housing officers or case workers. These specialists work with people who are furthest from the labour market.

The upheaval caused by COVID-19 really has highlighted the importance for businesses of having a dedicated and skilled workforce that can respond to change quickly.

Like them, our industry has faced huge challenges. We’re fortunate to work closely with some brilliant employers who are continuing to invest in training and development of their workforce, with an eye to emerging stronger from the current crisis. That means we’ve pivoted our operations to accommodate home learning and supporting City & Guilds’ pilot to ensure many EPAs can continue during lockdown with 100% remote assessments.

Already we are starting to see some fantastic new projects like The Reskilling for the Recovery Fund which will see money distributed to small businesses in London to pay for apprenticeship training for new and existing staff. Businesses in industries worst affected by the coronavirus crisis – hospitality, retail and construction – will be prioritised.

If we’re to offer hope and help to the newly unemployed, we need to ensure we’ve got the skills to be effective. It’s only by investing in our own learning and development that we’ll be able to help the UK workforce and the business we serve to respond, recover and #BuildBackBetter.

Lauren Webb is Head of Employer Solutions and Strategic Partnerships at employee-owned Seetec Outsource, one of the UK’s leading skills and apprenticeship specialists.

This blog was written by Lauren Webb for the Institute of Employability Professionals (IEP) and first published on 26 June 2020 on the IEP website.

You can find out more about The Level 4 Employability Practitioner Apprenticeship here